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Organic De-Worming and Prevention

We’ve discussed deworming and worm prevention in previous blog articles, but I also wanted to discuss organic methods for addressing worms.

In this case, I am discussing intestinal parasite worms that can end up in your chickens’ digestive track and damage their health. Not earthworms!) The worms don’t allow your birds to fully metabolize and/or digest their food. If your chickens are eating a lot but remain very skinny or if they start to lose vitality and vigor, you may have a worm issue.

Now worms are all over the environment, and many chickens have worms present in their system but never feel any adverse effects. Also, if your chickens have access to a large area with lots of diverse vegetation and insects, they will most likely naturally rid themselves of any worms they happen to have in them regularly and naturally.

So that would be the first and easiest organic worm prevention or deworming technique – simply letting your birds have space to range freely.

Taking that into consideration makes me ask myself, so when my bird have full access to the property and a large area to roam in, what are the chickens doing that keeps worms at bay?

First of all space is important. I think this is obvious. If you have a high number of chickens kept in a confined and small paddock, you are compounding your worm problems. Worm eggs are spread in feces. If the feces is highly concentrated, then the chickens have almost no way to avoid picking up and infesting themselves with worms, and possibly re-infesting themselves over and over.

Preventing worms is always easier than curing. Even though my chickens roam over 3 acres and don’t show any signs of worm infestation, I like to specifically do a deworming treatment in late Spring and Fall. I picked those times of the year because we do get a lot of snow around here, and my chickens end up being confined or ‘cooped-up’ for many days of the winter months. So I figure that if I deworm right before the winter and then right after the confinement of winter, my deworming will be most effective.

In the fall my main deworming treatment is very, very simple and easy. I feed my chickens pumpkins and winter squash. Pumpkins and winter squash are in season then, so they are easy to find. A pumpkin is a perfect holistic worm treatment. Pumpkin seeds are coated with a natural phytochemical called cucurbitacin. Cucurbitacin is very effective at making worms release their hold on the membranes of the digestive system. The roughage of the rest of the seed then helps scrape the worms out of the system. The orange flesh and stringy pulp of pumpkin and squash also contain high levels of vitamin A and C, which are known for preventing parasites. The whole pumpkin or squash is also full of other nutrients that will boost your birds’ immune systems and help effectively eliminate the worms. If the pumpkin has started to rot and ferment a bit, it can even help replenish and strengthen the probiotics or good bacteria of the intestinal tract. Pumpkins and squash also keep well into the winter – so you can keep treating your chickens throughout the winter with a delicious treat.

Pumpkin can do a lot in preventing and treating worms, but there is more you can do to really attack a worm problem. Carrots, Garlic, Mustard Greens, and Chili Peppers are all known as natural and very effective vermifuges or worm-expellers. Adding these things to your pumpkin treatment is a great idea. Or using these instead of pumpkin in the spring works very well. The different foods contain a diversity of phytochemicals that can take care of other types of worms that the pumpkin treatment doesn’t address. You can hide any of these ingredients chopped up in something that you know your birds will gobble down fast. I’ve used canned salmon, pasta with cheesy sauce on it, and cottage cheese.

I like to add some extra bran or psyllium for extra roughage into my deworming treatment mash. During the regular summer months, I watch my chickens helping themselves to plantain and plantain seeds, which contain psyllium. Plantain is growing all over the place in almost everyone’s lawns and gardens.

You can also add yogurt or raw milk to your deworming regimen as these foods can help replenish and strengthen the natural good bacteria of the gut.

Adding nutritious spices like turmeric would be an extra bonus.

I don’t measure my whole foods ingredients. There is really no need as you can’t overdo it. And my recipe changes depending on what I have on hand or can find in the store.

Continue to feed the regular amount of layer feed while doing your deworming treatment. I usually just feed the treatment stuff first, so all the birds fully pay attention and partake in it rather than filling up with regular feed.

If you have a very bad worm problem or you have to keep your chickens in a closely confined situation, I’d plan on giving them a deworming treatment once a month for a period of 3 days at a time. Worms are on a 4 week moon-based schedule for their egg laying so planning your purge for every 4 weeks a couple days or so before the full moon would make your treatment most effective.

One of the best things about these organic deworming methods is that you can eat the eggs your chickens are laying during the treatment. With most non-organic methods, you have to wait several weeks for the chemicals and poisons to leave the birds’ systems before you can consume the eggs they are laying.

I love the beauty and simplicity of organic and natural methods. And I love the fact that if chickens are left on their own with space and diversity they naturally know how to take care of themselves.

Worming 101

Rooster and hen in grass

A lot of new chicken owners worry about their chickens getting worms. In this case, we don’t mean earthworms, which your chickens will love eating. We mean intestinal worms, endoparasites, like roundworms. Worms can be very serious, not allowing your birds to thrive, decreasing in egg laying or gaining weight, and even causing death.

However most backyard chicken owners will never have to worry about worms. If your chickens have plenty of space they probably won’t even get worms, and if they do, it will be a passing thing, and you probably won’t even notice. If your chickens do contract a tough enough case of worms that they can’t naturally shake on their own, the worm infection is easy to eradicate.

The first thing is prevention. It is always easier to prevent than to cure. Prevention is primarily related to good husbandry. Healthy active chickens usually can eliminate worms from their systems on their own. You want to avoid exposing your chickens to crowded conditions where the worm load becomes huge.

Also, note that worm eggs need wet, warm places to thrive. So be sure to keep the litter in your coop dry and clean. Worms egg also are damaged or destroyed by sunlight. Encourage your chickens to spend time on short grassy areas in the sunlight. Keeping your chickens out of damp, shady, muddy areas is a good idea. Worm eggs cannot develop in cool temperatures. Most worms are inactive in temperatures under 50 degrees F.

You can also add natural supplements to your chickens daily routine as a way to help prevent worms. A dash of Apple Cider Vinegar (about 1 tbsp per gallon) or a couple fresh crushed garlic cloves can be added to their water. Adding powdered cayenne pepper to their feeders, about 1 cup per 25 pounds, can also help keep worms from taking hold in the digestive tracts of your chickens. It also makes your chicken feed less tasty to rodents. Your chickens though will enjoy the spiciness.

So you’ve been responsibly working to prevent worms, but you suspect that your chickens may have gotten them anyway. How do you diagnose a worm infection? The most telling factor is weight loss despite the fact that your bird or birds are eating a lot. Make a practice of taking a good look at your chickens. Lift one or two up each time you visit the coop and take note of how heavy they are. (Sometimes it is hard to see if your birds are too skinny because the feathers can hide it.) You may also notice that your birds have pale wattles and combs, a sign of iron deficiency which is typically caused by worm infections. You can also get an official worm count test done by a veterinarian. Just make sure you use a vet who knows how to look for worms in chickens. It is a different process than with carnivores like dogs and cats.

DewormerIf you recognize these common worm symptoms in any of your birds, you should consider using a commercial dewormer. And even if it seems only one bird is affected, you should deworm the entire flock to avoid re-infection.

Some people use a commercial dewormer as a preventative. This is probably not necessary in most backyard situations. But if you have had multiple cases of worm infections, or you cannot avoid damp shady ground, deworming as a preventative has merit. Because worms usually start up in Spring as temperatures warm up and the ground is damp from winter thawing, springtime would be optimal to do so.

There are lots of commercial dewormers available. At Purely Poultry, we offer some of our favorites that we feel are effective and safe. Always use commercial dewormers according to the label instructions. Pay attention to withdrawal periods. You often have to wait a certain amount of time after using these dewormers before eating the eggs or meat of chickens.

One of our favorite dewormers is the Rooster Booster Triple Action Multi-Wormer. It covers a wide variety of worm types and can be used with laying hens, meat birds, turkeys, ducks, quail, geese, and pigeons. It is in a convenient crumble form and also contains an artful blend of nutrients and vitamins to support your birds as they are dewormed.

We also offer the traditional Wazine Dewormer. Wazine is added to the drinking water. It can effectively control a variety of worms and can be used with various bird species as well.

It is a good practice to alternate dewormers as parasites have been known to build up resistance to them. If you are dealing with a lot of regular worm pressure on your property, plan to alternate the type of commercial dewormer you use each year.

If you are raising your chickens organically, you cannot use commercial dewormers. But you have plenty of options for a healthy, worm-free flock. Read about Organic Deworming Methods here.

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